Pages tagged "Law Enforcement"

  • Riding the Medical Marijuana Roller Coaster

    OK, the title of this post might be a bit misleading. I haven't ridden any medical marijuana themed rides lately, but many of us have been riding a political and legal roller coaster. Here are some of the ups and downs our movement has experienced recently: Sometimes this work is dizzying, and I only scratched the surface of all the conundrums we face...
  • California Weekly Roundup

    Assemblyman Leno and ASA Introduce Patients' Employment Rights Bill This week, Assemblyman Mark Leno, working with ASA, introduced AB 2279, a bill that would protect a patient's right to work and will help end discrimination against patients in the workplace. The employment rights bill, which is being co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), is in response to a January decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. ASA argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor of the bill. AB 2279 marks a historic milestone for the medical cannabis community. This is the first bill that ASA has co-sponsored and the first California bill that specifically focuses on expanding the civil rights of medical cannabis patients. If passed, this bill will end employment discrimination against patients. We are very excited to work with Assemblyman Leno's office on passing this bill and will keep you updated on how you can help to ensure a patient's right to work. For more information, contact [email protected]. Read ASA's press release and the Oakland Tribune article about the bill introduction. Medical Marijuana Awareness Week, For Patients By Patients Title Provided by SF ASA Organizer, Alex Franco Last week the medical cannabis community celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week 2008. Thousands of patients, activists, and supporters participated in ASA's daily action, generating letters to the editors, joining ASA as members, and meeting with elected officials. Locally, the week started out with Sunday's Medical Cannabis University, sponsored by San Francisco ASA. Twenty patient-students graduated from the Medical Cannabis University. On Tuesday, San Francisco ASA sponsored a free legal training at which over 30 patients learned their constitutional rights and developed skills on how to deal with a raid situation. Meanwhile, in Arcata, Humboldt County ASA honored several medical cannabis supporters, including Rep. Mike Thompson, for their leadership around medical cannabis issues. San Francisco ASA sponsored the 5th Annual ASA SF Valentine's Day Spread the Love Seed Planting to deliver a special Valentine to mayor Gavin Newsom asking him to write letters to both Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to publicly support medical cannabis and Congressman John Conyers encouraging him to hold investigative hearings. The Valentine also stated that if patients lost safe access to medical cannabis because of his inaction, we will ask him to personally grow the medicine for us. Over 50 patients participated in the event and 20 plants were given to Mayor Newsom. On Friday, East Bay ASA hosted a testimonial video filming walk-in day with dozens of patients participants. LA ASA celebrated Medical Marijuana Awareness Week at their monthly meeting by hosting ASA's Medical Advisory Boardmember, Jahan Marcu, to speak.The week also featured two separate film screenings, first on Wednesday, at Oaksterdam University with a Sneak Preview of an unreleased medical marijuana film and on Saturday, with a free film festival featuring several medical cannabis documentaries. The week came to a close on Sunday with SF ASA's 5th Annual 215 Party, which featured live music, raffles, and live djs. Over 100 advocates and patients turned out for the event. Thank you to everyone who helped organize the events and actions. It is volunteers and supporters like you that made Medical Marijuana Week 2008 a success! Fullerton City Council Vote Leaves Safe Access Up in the Air After originally voting 3 to 2 against a ban on dispensaries several weeks ago, the Fullerton City Council met on Wednesday and voted against banning dispensaries, and at the same time voted against developing dispensary regulations, leaving the situation up in the air. The police department made a presentation against collectives. Orange County ASA members and other advocates attended the hearing and spoke in support of safe access in Fullerton. What is next in Fullerton remains to be seen. Patients and activists are preparing materials to follow up with the council and will decide how to move forward after meeting with the local representatives. Local patients will be crucial in this effort, so please keep you eyes on ASA's forums and the upcoming Weekly Alerts for updates.
  • Is Newsom Waiting Until the Feds Come Knocking in San Francisco?

    It was interesting today to see three local newspapers (SF Chronicle, Associated Press, and Bay Area Reporter) cover the issue of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) interference in California's medical marijuana law and its impact on San Francisco dispensaries. No less than seven of the twenty-eight operating facilities are shutting down or have already closed due to fearful landlords. The closures are in direct response to threats of asset forfeiture and criminal prosecution the DEA has made to more than 300 landlords across California. This cynical tactic, unveiled by the DEA in July 2007 in southern California, was opposed by the Los Angeles Times and has also met with significant political opposition. Local elected officials from Los Angeles City Council member and former police officer Dennis Zine to Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, from Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums to SF Supervisors and Berkeley City Council have condemned the DEA tactics against patients and providers. SF State Senator Carole Migden recently introduced legislation calling on the DEA to end its interference in California and threw her support, with others, behind House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, who expressed his deep concern and called for DEA oversight hearings. So where is Mayor Newsom? It seems that Mayor Newsom is in hiding. Alex, at Drug Law Blog, rightly notes Newsom's silence on the issue and links it to the political vulnerability found around the issues of both medical marijuana and gay marriage, with pragmatism as the possible reason for his silence. However, unlike gay marriage, medical marijuana enjoys the support of at least 80% of Americans, not to mention a full 91% in SF. Regardless of any potential political justification for his actions, it is unconscionable that Newsom is refusing to say anything. Let's hope that this round of media compels Newsom, the anti-drug war Mayor, to not only defend safe access to medical marijuana for thousands of patients in his city, but to also protect the same facilities that contribute millions of dollars in sales tax to the state budget. The time for Newsom to act is now. Local and state officials must seize the opportunity to defend safe access to medical marijuana and the will of San Franciscans, Californians, and states that have fought for such assumed protections.
  • Advocates Urge Presidential Candidates to End DEA Raids by Executive Order

    Nationwide campaign launched today to end federal enforcement against medical marijuana With only a week left until Super Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates launched a nationwide campaign today to urge presidential candidates to end federal raids in states with medical marijuana laws. The campaign urges candidates to issue an Executive Order upon taking office that would end federal interference in state-sanctioned medical marijuana laws. The proposed Executive Order would deny funds to the Department of Justice for federal enforcement efforts against patients and providers in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. "To match the increased level of federal interference in states with medical marijuana laws, we're asking candidates to clearly state their opposition by pledging to issue an Executive Order, if elected." said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs at Americans for Safe Access, the advocacy group that launched the campaign. "We're spending millions of dollars on law enforcement actions that harm our most vulnerable citizens," continued Woodson. "And, the President wields the power to stop it at any time." Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has stepped up its enforcement actions against medial marijuana patients and providers. While federal interference has occurred in multiple medical marijuana states, some have been hit harder than others. In California, the DEA has conducted more than 100 raids and threatened more than 300 landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue to lease to medical marijuana dispensing collectives (dispensaries). In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently prosecuting more than 100 medical marijuana-related cases. The campaign focuses on candidates that have already made supportive statements on medical marijuana: Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, and Representative Ron Paul. These candidates are being asked to officiate their support by pledging to issue an Executive Order, which states that:
    "No funds made available to the Department of Justice shall be used to prevent States from implementing adopted laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. In particular, no funds shall be used to investigate, seize, arrest or prosecute in association with the distribution of medical marijuana, unless such distribution has been found by adjudication to violate state or local law."
    DEA actions have already garnered opposition from both local and federal lawmakers, including Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers. In December, Mayor Dellums made a public statement condemning DEA tactics. The same month, Chairman Conyers publicly voiced his "deep concern" over DEA "efforts to undermine California state law," and he committed to sharply question these tactics in oversight hearings.
  • 2007: ASA's Year in Review

    In the January edition of ASA's monthly newsletter, we review much of what we accomplished in 2007, including:

    • Winning a legal victory that forces law enforcement to return medical marijuana to valid California patients

    • Co-sponsoring the largest HIV/AIDS lobby day in DC

    • Launching a grassroots campaign to pressure Gov. Schwarzenegger to stand up for patients' rights

    • Protecting state laws by defeating the Coburn Amendment

    • And much, much more... 


    Thanks to Alex at Drug Law Blog for including some of ASA's accomplishments in his top 10 drug law stories of 2007. Here's how we ranked:

    8. ASA Sues the Feds for Putting Out Pseudo-Scientific Gobbledygook.

    One of the intriguing things about law is the way formalized and seemingly very "square" tactics can sometimes accomplish surprisingly progressive goals. This year, Americans for Safe Access brought a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA based on a law called the Data Quality Act.  The basic argument is that under the DQA, these federal agencies have to rely on accurate science in setting their policies, and that their position on medical marijuana manifestly fails to do that. This suit is still working its way through the courts, so we'll see what comes of it....

    4. Medical Marijuana:  The Feds Push, and California Pushes Back

    ... In November, the Fourth District Court of Appeal decided City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a case that was all about whether an individual should be able to get back medical marijuana that was seized by police if the marijuana was legally possessed under California law. We also saw the oral argument in the California Supreme Court in the employment law case of Ross v. RagingWire, which was about whether an employee could be fired for using physician-approved medical marijuana. Though it's tough to know how that one will ultimately come out, at least some of the comments from the justices suggested that they were sympathetic to the state's position on medical marijuana. [Both of these cases were argued by ASA Chief Counsel, Joe Elford.]

    Check out the rest of his top 10 to see how we matched up.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    Oakland Mayor Dellums Speaks Out for Safe Access On December 20th, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums came out strongly in support of medical cannabis patients and dispensaries by issuing a statement and sending a letter to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI). Dellums also stated his support for Representative Conyers' decision to hold hearings scrutinizing the latest DEA tactics in California of sending threatening letters to landlords and raiding dispensaries that are in compliance with local and state law. In Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers, he "urge[s] the House Judiciary Committee to expeditiously hold hearings and examine this very important issue." Mayor Dellums' public statement and letter were a result of a coalition of activists reaching out to the mayor, including ASA, local attorney James Anthony, the Drug Policy Alliance, CA NORML, and the Marijuana Policy Project. Just under a month ago, Bay Area landlords who rented to collectives received letters from the DEA threatening to seize their assets if they did not evict the medical cannabis providers. ASA and the coalition of advocates sprung into action, reaching out immediately to local elected officials, calling on them to stand up for patients and providers. Mayor Dellums' recent public support joins a handful of other elected officials in the Bay Area, including Senator Carol Migden, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and the Oakland City Council who have come out publicly against the federal government's attack on medical marijuana. We are continuing to rally support from local officials and the community. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates have yet to release a statement supporting medical cannabis patients and providers and condemning the DEA's attacks. Read Mayor Dellums' letter to Representative Conyers at: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Letter_to_Conyers.pdf Read Mayor Dellums' statement at: www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/downloads/Dellums_Statement.pdf

    To find out ways to get involved and ensure safe access in San Francisco please contact Alex Franco at: [email protected] To find out ways to get involved in the East Bay please contact [email protected]

    Check out Mayor Dellums' press coverage on Channel 2, the Oakland Tribune, and KPFA

    Court Appeals Verdict: Patient's Conviction is Reversed The Fourth Appellate District Court issued another very positive published decision in People v. Chakos last week. The two concurring judges, Aronson and Fybel, involved in the unanimous opinion were the same two concurring judges in the Garden Grove (Kha) case.

    The court found that the conviction for possession with the intent to sell of defendant Chakos should be reversed because the court improperly admitted a cop to testify as an expert about marijuana distribution. They found him to be no more an expert than the average layperson because he did not understand the unique practices and difficulties faced by medical marijuana patients. Although the defendant possessed approximately six ounces of marijuana, had a digital scale, and plastic baggies, the court found that this did not suggest non-medical use. Specifically, after noting that a patient is legally entitled to possess eight ounces of marijuana under California law, the court stated:

    "One might posit, then, that individuals who may lawfully possess marijuana under state law for medicinal purposes will have patterns of purchase and holding that will reflect the practical difficulties in obtaining the drug. Those practical difficulties could also explain the gram scale -- anyone with the lawful right to possess marijuana will need to take precautions not to insure that he or she does not get “ripped off” by a dealer, but that he or she does not possess more than the eight ounces contemplated by the Act. Practical difficulties of obtaining the drug also explain why a patient entitled to 13 possess it under state law might want to keep an extra supply on hand within the legal amount, since supplies would not be reliable."

    They end the decision by referring to the "expert" cop:

    "Now, are these speculations to be rejected because contradicted by the expert’s testimony on the record? No -- and that is the point: The record fails to show that Deputy Cormier is any more familiar than the average layperson or the members of this court with the patterns of lawful possession for medicinal use that would allow him to differentiate them from unlawful possession for sale. In other words, Cormier was unqualified to render an expert opinion in this case."

    Read more about the case and the 4th Appellate Court's decision in the San Francisco Chronicle's story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/21/BAJ0U37B7.DTL&tsp=1 Ukiah City Council Calls for Medicine Limits- Board of Supervisors to Consider Ballot Initiative The Ukiah City Council is expected to vote on a resolution today at 4:00pm, which calls on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to put an initiative on the ballot to limit the number of plants medical cannabis patients are allowed to cultivate and repeal the landmark legislation, Measure G. Measure G was voted on by the Mendocino County voters in 2000. The measure decriminalized personal use of cannabis, with the intent to create safer access for medical cannabis patients. Measure G also allowed patients to cultivate up to 25 plants for personal use.

    The Council is calling for a repeal of Measure G and limiting the plant numbers to six per patient. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss putting the repeal of Measure G and limiting patients' cultivation on the ballot next Tuesday, January 8th.

    Come out and support patients' access! Scroll down to "City and County Hearings" to find details about the Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday.

    Read about Ukiah City Council's efforts to repeal of Measure G in the Press Democrat: http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/article/20071224/NEWS/712240316/1033/NEWS01 and in the Willits News: http://www.willitsnews.com//ci_7812598?IADID=Search-www.willitsnews.com-www.willitsnews.com

    Orange County Begins Issuing Medical Cannabis ID Cards From Safe Access Now's Aaron Smith

    On January 2nd, the Orange County Department of Public Health launched the statewide medical marijuana ID card program. Application for the cards are being taken on an appointment-only basis. Obtaining a card is voluntary for patients and caregivers but many find them to be very helpful in preventing false arrest by state and local law enforcement. In order to qualify for the ID card, you must be able to provide a copy of a valid doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, proof of residency within Orange County and pay an application fee of $150 ($75 for MediCal recipients).

    To make an appointment and apply for the card program, call the County Health Department at (714) 480-6717 during normal business hours.

  • Court of Appeals Orders Police to Return Medical Marijuana

    For years there has been harassment against medical marijuana patients through the confiscation of their medicine, and, until now, there had been no clear statement on this by the appellate courts. On Wednesday, this changed. In City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, a unanimous panel of three judges on California's Fourth Appellate District issued a 41-page published opinion, which made clear that all superior court judges across the state must return confiscated marijuana to qualified marijuana patients who demonstrate that they are entitled to possess it under California law. The opinion is written by the Honorable William Bedsworth, whom many consider the "Literary Jurist." It has many quotable passages. The opinion starts out with a noticeable description of the issue presented -- "We confront here the facially anomalous request that we approve state confiscation of a substance which is legal in the circumstances under which it was possessed." I take this to mean that the court is stating that it will not condone police seizing marijuana that is possessed legally under California law. In other words, the police should not have taken Felix Kha's marijuana in the first place. The court, then, treated seized medical marijuana just like other legally possessed property taken by the police and found that "[b]ecause Kha is legally entitled to possess it, due process and fundamental fairness dictate that it be returned to him." There would not be an exception to these constitutional principles for medical marijuana patients. Courts must return medical marijuana to qualified patients. But what about federal law, you wonder? Well, federal law expressly contains an exception to its marijuana laws for law enforcement officers performing their functions. 21 U.S.C. Section 885(d) provides that "no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed [under the federal Controlled Substances Act] upon any . . . duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances." Thus, as did a unanimous court of appeals in Oregon, the Fourth Appellate District held that the courts and police are immune from federal drug laws for returning medical marijuana. Law enforcement's reliance on federal law in refusing to do this is misplaced. The court further explained:
    By complying with the trial court's order, the Garden Grove police will actually be facilitating a primary principle of federalism, which is to allow the states to innovate in areas bearing on the health and well-being of their citizens. Indeed, "[o]ure federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of States [that have authorized the use of medical marijuana] to decide from themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of their citizens." [citation] The [Compassionate Use Act] and the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] are a clear manifestation of that decision-making process.
    The feds may do what the feds will do in enforcing their own laws, but the people of California are entitled to decide to tread a different path, which requires the return of medical marijuana wrongfully seized by the police. The City of Garden Grove was joined in its resistance to court-ordered return of medical marijuana by several amici (friends of the court), which included the California Peace Officer' Association and the California District Attorneys' Association. (The Attorney General, on the hand, filed a brief supporting our side.) The court addressed several of their claims:
    Amici for the City also claim that ordering the return of Kha's marijuana is ill advised as a matter of public policy because local police are held to a high moral standard, they often cooperate with federal drug enforcement efforts, and they are generally charged with enforcing and administering “the law of the land,” which includes federal law. We appreciate these considerations and understand police officers at all levels of government have an interest in the interdiction of illegal drugs. But it must be remembered it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws as such. For reasons we have explained, state courts can only reach conduct subject to federal law if such conduct also transcends state law, which in this case it does not. To the contrary, Kha's conduct is actually sanctioned and made “noncriminal” under the CUA.
    The court emphasized to the police that medical marijuana patients are not criminals:
    Amici argue the police should not have to return Kha's marijuana to him, even though he is qualified to use the drug for medical reasons under California law. Characterizing Kha as a “criminal defendant,” amici claim the CUA only provides him with a “defense” to certain offenses and does not make his possession of medical marijuana “lawful.” But Kha is clearly not a criminal defendant with respect to the subject marijuana. Since the prosecution dismissed the drug charge he was facing, he is nothing more than an aggrieved citizen who is seeking the return of his property. The terms “criminal” and “defendant” do not aptly apply to him.
    For the first time in a published opinion, a California court clarified to the local police that it is state law, not federal law, they should be enforcing. It was a pleasure to read this thoughtful, well-reasoned decision which strongly vindicates the right of medical marijuana patients everywhere. It will be cited often. For the briefs filed in the case see here.
  • California Weekly Round Up

    Victory in Kha Case Will Have a Major Impact for Patients This week, medical marijuana patients throughout California received a monumental victory.  On Wednesday, a California Appeals Court ruled that “it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws.” Ending years of dispute, the court ruled in favor of Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient seeking the return of his medical marijuana that was seized by police. In a ruling that rejects law enforcement’s claim that federal law preempts the state’s medical marijuana law, the court asserted “we do not believe the federal drug laws supersede or preempt Kha’s right to the return of his property.” Joe Elford, ASA's Chief Counsel, said it best when asked about the effect this case will have. Elford said, "This case will have beneficial ripple effects on all of our other cases, since the decision is so comprehensive.  This was an even better decision that I would have hoped." This victory is the result of years of work put in by ASA's legal staff, volunteers, activists, and patients.  Kha, a medical marijuana patient, was cited for marijuana possession and had his medicine seized in 2005.  The case was quickly dismissed, but the City of Garden Grove refused to return the unlawfully seized medicine.  After more than 2 years of waiting, the appellate court's decision puts an end to state law enforcement seizing medicine from patients, preventing future injustices like the one Kha faced. Since proposition 215 passed, the seizure of medicine by California law enforcement has been a far too common experience for many of California's terminally ill and chronic disease patients.  Just in the past two years, ASA has compiled reports from nearly eight hundred patient encounters with local or state police.  These glaring trends will now be forced to end due to this court decision. As a result of this court decision, ASA will be revamping our Return of Property campaign to ensure justice for all patients who have had their medicine taken away. Noah Mamber, ASA's Legal Coordinator says about the decision, "The Legal Department is very excited about the possibilities that this decision creates. Since every Superior Court in the state must follow this decision, we intend to simplify our Motion for Return of Property template, and relaunch the campaign, encouraging all patients who were possessing their medicine legally and have had it confiscated to use this case in trying to get it back. The more motions we file, the more pressure the judges will exert on the district attorneys and police to stop harassing legal patients." Read more about the decision in our press release at:http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5251 Read the press coverage by: NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/us/30pot.html?ref=us SF Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/30/BAIFTLCNQ.DTL The Recorder: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1196361712064 Orange County Register:  http://www.ocregister.com/news/marijuana-law-kha-1931328-state-garden CBS 2: http://cbs2.com/local/Medical.Marijuana.Garden.2.598475.html Medical Marijuana Movement Loses Linda Senti From Chris Payaso, c/o Oaksterdam News and Weedbay.net: It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you all that a great shining light of compassion and freedom here in California has been snuffed out. Linda Senti, wife of cannabis activist Eddy Lepp, passed from this world at 8 pm PST Sunday, November 25. Linda was my closest confidant and friend in California, and although sad at her passing, I am happy she is no longer in pain from the cancer she has been fighting for decades. Please pray for Linda, and especially Eddy Lepp. He needs all the support and love that we can offer so that he can continue fighting for OUR RIGHTS. Both Eddy and Linda worked tirelessly for at least the last 20 years together on their vision. A vision that included personal freedom for everyone. Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Deny Dispensary Permit This week, in a disappointing  act, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors denied Creekside Medicinal Organics their permit in a 3-0 vote with two Supervisors missing.  Despite the large contingency of Sonoma ASA chapter members, patients, and activists who testified in support of Creekside Medicinal Organics, the board went ahead and voted the permit down, citing ordinance residential zoning rule.  The collective had met every stipulation of the county's ordinance with one small exception.  The land parcel site is 53 feet from residential zoning. The ordinance rule is 100 feet.  The physical building, however, is located over two hundred feet from the residential zoning, but because parcel line is only 53 feet away, the permit was recommended for denial and then voted down in a unanimous decision. ASA would like to thank Sonoma ASA and all the activists, patients, and concerned citizens that showed up in support of the collective.  Even though we did not win, we appreciate your hard work and your commitment to safe access. It is people like you that keep this movement alive and strong. Read more about the hearing at: http://www.ktvu.com/news/14710912/detail.html Update on Long Beach Raid Two weeks ago, DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Caregivers, seizing medicine and other resources and arresting the collective's operator, Samuel Matthew Fata.  The collective has remained closed since the raid, and ASA has not received reports of their plans to reopen. The raid was the first federal attack on a dispensary in Long Beach, and the DEA has released a press statement saying it will not be the last. The city of Long Beach does not have a dispensary ordinance, nor regulations in place, despite the reported 10+ dispensaries in the city. Several dispensaries in Long Beach have fallen under attack recently when the DEA issued asset forfeiture letters to the facilities' landlords.  ASA will report breaking news on access in Long Beach as well as upcoming court dates and support for the collective as we receive reports.  If you have any information about upcoming court dates for Fata, please contact [email protected] To read more about the raid, see the following news articles: Long Beach Press-Telegram:  http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7530132 and http://www.presstelegram.com/search/ci_7544769
  • Visiting with Stephanie Landa

    Jane is a medical marijuana activist and ASA volunteer in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Recently, I joined fellow activists Ana and Chris to make our bi-monthly trek up the 5 freeway for a visit with our friend Stephanie Landa.  Stephanie, a 61 year old mother, is being held at the Dublin Federal Parks Camp, a decrepit women’s minimum security federal prison. The prison, a former World War II Japanese internment camp, sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling golden hills, between a military base and the cookie cutter condo development built to house the soldiers. This prison, however, is not like what you’d imagine.  There are no guard towers, sweeping spotlights, and high barbed wire fences surrounding this facility.  In fact, there are no fences at all. A few inmates over the years have literally just walked away, but most don’t because they hope to reintegrate into society as soon as they are done clicking off days handed down by an arbitrary Sentencing Commission. Everyone knows that if they escape and get caught, the punishment is imprisonment just across the parking lot at the infamous maximum security Santa Rita County Jail, a facility that very much looks just as you’d imagine. At the guard’s desk, we surrender our identification and empty our pockets. The guard gives us a once over, to make sure we are dressed properly (no torn jeans or open-toed shoes as we learned on a previous visit). We log our names as visitors (having already undergone Federal background checks for approval) for Stephanie Landa, Prisoner Number: 09247800, then wait patiently for her to be called. She enters the room from a separate entrance, wearing blue prisoner garb and always a smile, her right arm hangs limply at her side under the pain of her ailing shoulder. We usually sit in the outdoor visiting area and Stephanie fills us in on her life in prison. In prison, there is no privacy. Most women are housed in dormitories in lots of 40. Throughout the night, every two to three hours, guards barge into the dorms for the nightly count, shining flashlights in the eyes of women attempting to sleep. Stephanie was recently upgraded to relatively lavish accommodations: a four bunk room, but she still hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since she arrived. She has very little freedom and personal choices are usually limited to a cheese burrito or a pepperoni microwave pizza from the vending machines. All her mail is read and censored, all phone calls are listened in on, and she can trust no one because everyone is a possible snitch. The wardens pit the women against each other by rewarding any piece of incriminating information. All conversations are subject to eavesdropping; even our conversation in the outdoor visiting area is likely to be listened- in on. She is monitored like a child, having to report to certain places at certain times. She must always obey and behave according to the rules. If she rebels in any way, she will be punished.  Of course, this doesn’t stop her.  Even in jail, she continues to be an activist, for medical marijuana and for improved prison conditions. Despite all this, Stephanie jokes that she thinks she might be becoming institutionalized. She doesn’t like it there, but she is getting used to it.  Eventually, Stephanie will be back in Los Angeles , but for now, it is just a matter of waiting. Not surprisingly, Stephanie is making the best of her time and keeping busy. She is the head of the Dublin Federal Correctional Institute chapter of Toastmasters International (which has record attendance since her takeover), she makes cards to answer every letter she receives, and she has nurtured some amazing crocheting skills (I have a hat and bag to prove it!). Usually, we are able to take pictures with Stephanie, but today, the “picture lady” is unavailable. The last time we took photos, four out of five photos were confiscated by the prison officials. We had posed in front of various signs in the visiting area (Keep of the Grass, the sign for the prison, No Smoking) and apparently someone didn’t like the rare moment of personal expression. In fact, now photos can only be taken in two designated areas.  There was even now a backdrop set up.  Tighter control is constantly being placed on the smallest of freedoms. Visiting hours end at 2 PM. It’s always hard to say good bye. It’s hard to leave her behind. Sometimes Stephanie will smile and ask a guard if she can come home with us, and follow it up with an “OK, just checking.” While we leave to enjoy a nice lunch before heading home, Stephanie must go back into the dormitories, where her life is dictated. The injustice of her conviction is felt acutely. She is eleven months into the forty-month sentence doled out to her for growing medication (plants!) for sick and dying patients. Stephanie has been incarcerated since voluntarily turning herself over to federal authorities on January 4th, 2007. In 2002, after receiving the full cooperation of the SF Board of Supervisors, the SF Medical Marijuana Task Force, and San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan, Stephanie, Tom Kikuchi and Kevin Gage were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Agency by a rogue narcotics detective in the San Francisco Police Department, an action that was in a violation of the city’s Medical Marijuana Sanctuary Resolution. Because they were not allowed to present a medical defense in federal court, all three accepted a plea bargain and plead guilty. Despite 8 SF Supervisors and DA Hallinan writing personal letters to Judge William Alsup asking for leniency in sentencing, she was still sentenced to 41 months, Alsup admitting the sentence was improper but claiming his hands were tied. Stephanie is still a beacon of light and love, despite the circumstances. The one thing that has helped through all of this is the mail she receives. She says that she absolutely lives for mail call. Please, write to Stephanie! FCI DUBLIN SATELLITE CAMP Prisoner Stephanie Landa POW # 09247-800 5675 8TH ST DUBLIN, CA 94568
  • California Weekly Round Up

    ASA & Local Advocates Prevail in Orange County! From California Campaign Director, Don Duncan Supervisor Bates has pulled her motion to deny collectives and cooperatives licenses from the Board’s agenda. The decision stems from input from ASA and her constituents at and following the October 30th Board of Supervisor’s meeting. This is great news for patients in that traditionally underserved county, and it also keeps the statewide momentum flowing towards regulating safe access – not preventing it. Thanks to all the patients and concerned citizens who chimed in to make a difference! We must all stay vigilant in case another threat pops up… so keep your eyes on the Orange County Board of Supervisors and other local government. Check out my November 5 blog on the last minute campaign to stop this ban at http://AmericansforSafeAccess.org/OrangeCountyBlog DEA Raids Long Beach Dispensary DEA agents raided Long Beach Compassionate Cooperative yesterday. ASA is awaiting further details on the raid. A patient that was there claims that DEA raided LBCC 5 minutes after they opened yesterday morning. DEA took the medicine and harassed the volunteers, but we still have not heard of any arrests. Please post any news on the raid at our forum, http://www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/LongBeachRaid Tom Kikuchi Sentenced to Two Years in Federal Prison Tom Kikuchi, co-defendant along with Stephanie Landa and Kevin Gage, was sentenced yesterday to two years in a federal prison for violating the conditions of his federal supervised release. Tom Kikuchi, Stephanie Landa, and Kevin Gage, a noted Hollywood actor, accepted a plea agreement in 2003. This case drew attention because San Francisco police apparently turned her and two others over to federal prosecutors. The three had met with the city’s district attorney and police officials before beginning cultivation. For more information about the case and Tom Kikuchi's hearing, read Vanessa Nelson's article at: http://www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com/content/view/166/111/